Airhart new head of EBR Mortgage Finance Authority

The first executive director of the East Baton Rouge Mortgage Finance Authority said he wants the organization to expand its mission and partner with developers to build more affordable housing in the parish.

Michael Airhart also said he plans to seek approval to allow the mortgage finance authority to offer its programs in the eight parishes surrounding East Baton Rouge. The authority, which was created in 1974, is a self-supporting mortgage loan funding source for primarily low- to moderate-income, first-time home buyers.

“We increase home ownership and creation,” said Airhart, who came to the job after serving as president of Louisiana Mortgage Lenders, a business he founded 17 years ago. “The building of a home is economic development because there are so many people employed in financing and construction.”

Airhart, 43, a Baton Rouge native, took over as executive director on June 1 after a search that took several months. He graduated from Broadmoor High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies from LSU. He is chairman of the board of the Louisiana Housing Corp., which works to provide affordable housing for rental and ownership.

“We have every confidence that we made the right choice in our selection of Mr. Airhart,” said Astrid Clements, chairwoman of the mortgage finance authority. “With over 20 years of experience in the mortgage finance industry, including his association with the Louisiana Housing Corp., we feel that he is exceptionally qualified to further the mission of the authority.”

In his new role, Airhart said his mission is to generate new business lines and revenue streams. The mortgage finance authority has given grants to developers who were working in affordable housing, and now they will look at opportunities to be an equity partner in building multifamily developments.

But the organization still will work on increasing the number of people who own homes. On Sept. 1, a new turnkey mortgage loan program will be launched. The program will use approved lenders to provide down payment assistance. The mortgage finance authority is recruiting lenders to participate in the program. “We want to sign up as many banks as we can,” Airhart said.

In October, the agency will begin a Mortgage Credit Certificates plan. The plan allows needy first-time homeowners to get a federal tax credit of up to $2,000 a year. The mortgage finance authority has received approval from the state bond commission to offer up to $50 million in mortgage credits.

“This reduces the cost of homeownership,” Airhart said.

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.